Both Sides Now
On Monday, the White House labored to explain President Trump's tweets on Saturday morning accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump's Trump Tower phones during the presidential election. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, speaking to reporters without cameras, said that Congress would find the evidence for Trump's accusations — though, so far, most Republicans in Congress seem as baffled as everyone else. "I think that there's no question that something happened," Spicer said. "There's been enough reporting that strongly suggests that something occurred."
Spicer's deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, went on network TV to defend Trump's claim, while White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had the easier task of going on Fox News, which devoted much of Monday to trying to find proof that Obama (or, usually, his administration) might have done what Trump alleged. The other networks were notably more skeptical. If Trump has evidence to back up his unsubstantiated claim, "we certainly have yet to see it," Anderson Cooper said on CNN Monday night.
"His information appears to come from conservative radio hosts and websites," Cooper said, "and the basis for their story? As-yet-unverified reporting from the BBC, The Guardian, and a new British website called Heat Street on Obama administration efforts last year to get court permission to monitor four Trump team members suspected of irregular contact with Russia. Now, that reporting has so far not been matched by U.S. news organizations with prior good contacts in the intelligence community," he added, and "it's important to point out that none of these British outlets or the conservative outlets in the U.S. that are pushing the story reported that President Obama either ordered or sought wiretaps on then-Mr. Trump," as Trump claimed.
On Fox News, Tucker Carlson decided to fact-check Obama's denial that he had ordered Trump's phones wiretapped, and he enlisted Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge to help. "It's technically correct that the White House and the president don't order surveillance of U.S. citizens, but it would happen through their FBI and their Justice Department," Herridge said, "so if there was a surveillance order, it would happen on Mr. Obama's watch." She called Obama's claim that his administration never interfered in a federal investigation "patently false," because of Obama's statements about Hillary Clinton. Watch her and Carlson's fact-check below. Peter Weber